Hyundai Elantra GT — A stylish five-door

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you like the styling of the compact Hyundai Elantra sedan, you should like the all-new for 2013 Elantra GT hatchback, and especially the additional cargo space it brings. Its extra edge of practicality should appeal to a wide variety of buyers.

Practical, yes, and kind of sexy too. Check out the new compact and sub-compact five-door designs from such manufacturers as Hyundai, Mazda and Ford and you may reach the same opinion that we've formed — in most cases the hatchback has more intriguing, integrated lines than its sedan counterpart.

In the case of Hyundai Elantra, styling is a major draw. The sedan, which has lived in its current shape since the 2011 model year, is head turning. But the hatchback seems to have even more visual presence with a sloping roofline meeting a high beltline with a character line that flows forward in a downward sweep into the pronounced wheel arches.

This is not the first Hyundai Elantra cargo hauler, it has been offered in hatchback versions before, most recently as the wagon-like Elantra Touring. The new GT doesn't have as much cargo space as the Touring that it replaces, but it's still quite spacious at 51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. That's more than what most rival hatchbacks offer. Even with the Elantra GT's rear seats upright, there's still a lot of space for stuff in back measured at 23 cubic feet. And the large hatchback opening makes it easy to access.

The drivetrain is identical to the sedan meaning it will get the job of driving done in adequate if not outstanding fashion. The GT is motivated by the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder that powers the sedan making the same 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. We were hoping that Hyundai would have dialed in a bit more muscle in the hatchback, but both versions of the Elantra feel nearly identical because the hatch comes in just 84 pounds heavier than the sedan at 2,745 pounds, which is rather light for the class.

Most people will opt for the six-speed automatic — there's a six-speed manual available for those who still like to shift for themselves — that yields 0-to-60 times in the mid-nine-second range. That's on the slower side of average in today's compact segment, but we found that in real-life driving, the Elantra GT is capable of merging and passing without drama. And that's the real bottom line. You’ll also find outstanding gas mileage measured at 37 mpg highway, 27 city and 30 combined.

The Elantra hatchback has a feature other Elantra's don't have — a driver-selectable steering mode that varies steering weight between Comfort, Normal and Sport. When we are given a choice we always favor, you guessed it, Sport. It seemed to work as designed, giving the Elantra decent feedback and a pleasing driving demeanor, especially on our favorite curving back roads.

A just-right seating position behind the wheel proved easy to find with the optional power adjustments on our test car. And the seats are comfortable for wide bodies (we have first-hand knowledge). The rear-seat has adequate leg and head room.

The instrument panel in the Elantra is drop-dead gorgeous. Hyundai’s signature gauge housings really set the tone and the data readout between the tachometer and speedometer is a great touch. For an inexpensive vehicle there are some very nice materials used in the dash, seats and door moldings.

The Elantra GT comes in just one trim level starting at $19,320 including destination charge. Packages can be added as desired and there are some worthwhile and tempting options available. Standard equipment is generous including 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. Standard safety includes antilock brakes, stability control, and automatic crash notification.

Additionally Hyundai has made available most of the things people have come to expect in a car including keyless entry/ignition, navigation with a seven-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, and a panoramic sunroof. Most of the options come in packages — it's hard to find stand-alone options these days from any manufacturer — and you may have to be content with some features you could have done without to gain those that you desire.

Our test car included the Style Package for $2,750 that includes leather seating, sport-tuned suspension, panoramic sunroof and 17-inch alloy wheels; and the Tech Package that includes navigation and dual climate control for $2,350. That brought the bottom line to $25,365 including destination charge.

Base price: $19,320; as driven, $25,365
Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 148 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 131 pound-feet @ 4,700 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 169.3 inches
Curb weight: 2,784 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 23 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 51 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 37 highway, 27 city
0-60: 9.5 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3

The Good
• Modern styling inside and out
• Spacious interior
• Excellent gas mileage

The Bad
• Desirable options come in packages

The Ugly
• Below-average performance